Rufus Atius Ferox remembers two childhoods.
"Yah yah! Rory's a girl's name!" Jeff taunts, kicking a clod of dirt at Rory's heels. There's no real point in protesting; it only gives Jeff the satisfaction he wants, and Rory can't actually deny that it is, in fact, a girly kind of name.
He still clenches his fists at his sides, thin arms trembling, weedy ten-year-old body taut with fury and shame. It's always like this, it seems; his whole childhood has felt as if it were built on a bedrock of hostility. The world hates him, but not really enough to do anything drastic. It just sends bullies to make him angry and stupid grownups to stand by impotently and remind him there will never be anything he can do about it.
"Don't listen to that wanker," Amy says, putting an arm around his shoulders.
"Rory hangs out with girls!" Jeff calls, but his voice is receding in the distance. He's got to wait for his stupid mates, but Rory and Amy don't have to wait for anything. Amy and her aunt have struck a wary truce: as long as she goes to the therapist every week, the rest of her afternoons are her own. It's not logical, Rory knows that already -- it means Amy's aunt is simply going through the motions -- but it also means that four glorious days out of five he and Amy can bolt for the edge of the village and play-pretend out where nobody will see them.
It is very important to Rory that nobody sees them, because he already knows they are well past the age for playing pretend, really.
"I made up a new story," Amy says, as she climbs up into the big oak and fetches down their play-box.
"Not Raggedy Doctor again," Rory groans, but secretly he's pleased. Amy comes up with the best stories and lately, sometimes, he gets to kiss her at the end, even if she's not really kissing him. It sends a thrill up Rory's spine, a promise of more grown-up pastimes he's seen on telly.
Amy knows his weaknesses: "If we don't play Raggedy Doctor you don't get the Sonic Screwdriver."
Rory loves the Sonic Screwdriver like he loves ice cream and dissecting things in science class. It's just a penlight, but Amy's decorated it with bits of wire and little levers and sparkly things. When he waves it around and shazams and BEEEZTs things with it, he feels like a king.
Jeff can never ever ever know about the Sonic Screwdriver. Rory harbours suspicions it might be kind of gay.
So he changes his school uniform for a battered too-big Oxford he stole from his dad's closet (that was a mission Amy sent him on, like a spy) and a pre-ripped pair of trousers. Amy passes him the rattiest of his school ties to knot around his throat, and then she lets him have the Sonic Screwdriver. He's a really proper Raggedy Doctor now.
"Is it aliens or monsters or what this time?" he asks.
"GIANT MAN EATING PLANTS," Amy shouts, pointing at the shrubbery in the distance.
Rory takes a brief second to declare that, scientifically, giant man-eating plants are rubbish, and then runs after her as she dashes off to do battle with Leadworth's untamed landscape.
Rufus remembers a childhood of McDonalds and flush toilets and cars, science classes, bullies, and the fact that he wasn't the town freak only because nobody could out-freak Amy, at least not in Leadworth. Leadworth was the town. His name was Rory Williams.
The men still call him Rory, an unofficial agnomen, a nickname. His father will be pleased when he hears Rufus is so popular.
He remembers two fathers, but the more vivid of them is Brutus Atius Africanus, the Consul. As a boy he ran barefoot on the tiled ground of his father's villa's courtyard, the only cool place in the summer, and stole sweet fruit right off the trees.
"Rufus!" his mother calls, and Rufus dodges around the courtyard fountain, ducking under the spray quickly to cool down. He arrives in front of his mother breathless and damp, shaking water out of his hair, beaming. She looks disapproving.
"Salve, Rufus Atius," says Julia Seia, his mother's best friend, which means (his heart jumps a little in his throat) that Camilla Pontia might be here.
"Salve, Domina Seia," he says politely, with a little bow. "Salve, Camillula!" he calls, because he can see Camilla in the portico.
"You are not to distract Camilla today," his mother tells him, as Camilla Pontia runs past her aunt to greet Rufus properly.
"It's high time she began behaving more like a lady," Julia Seius agrees, and Camilla rolls her eyes. She fascinates Rufus; born and brought up in a wild occupied territory across the sea, she's as close as you can get to a princess in Rome, and yet she doesn't act like any of the girls Rufus knows. He's heard his mother and Camilla's aunt talking; he knows that Camilla is meant for him when they're grown, a very good match, and he hopes when he has a little more height on him she'll stop treating him like a favoured plaything and start acknowledging his inherent male superiority.
Still, better Camilla Pontia's plaything than any other woman's Dominus.
He waits by his mother's chambers, just outside the door, listening to them talk and drink watered wine until both his mother and Julia Seius have drowsed off to sleep. Camilla has been watching too; when he whistles through his teeth softly she creeps out the door and then they're free.
His oratory tutor, a young Greek slave his father bought for him a year ago, has set him loads and loads of recitation to memorise, so he and Camilla spend the afternoon lost in poetry and rhetoric, strutting among the servants as they wash the clothes and sweep the floors. Father has workmen in to do a new mosaic on the western wall, and they sit on the fountain, drumming their heels, getting wet as they watch two artisans labour under the stern eye of a master. So far the mosaic shows half of a feast, lanterns hanging in the corners. The lanterns are blue and boxy, and give yellow light from their little shutters.
"Salve, Camillula!" his father's voice booms through the courtyard, and then he's sweeping down on them in his glorious white toga, wrapping Camilla in a hug and cuffing Rufus across the head affectionately.
Rufus remembers his father as the biggest, brightest star in his Roman sky, with a sweep of messy dark hair over his forehead (he hated being barbered) and a face that looks too young to be a Consul with a half-grown son.
He looks like the Doctor.
Rufus also remembers a childhood that current evidence says he could never have had. He has vivid recollection of a school trip to London to see the Tower, and how Amy had bloodthirstily lingered in the armoury where they kept the torture devices, while Rory sought out the room where Lady Jane Grey's husband had carved Iane in the stone before they were both executed, five hundred and fifty years before. He remembers studying biology and chemistry for his A-Levels. When he thinks about being a young man he remembers training as a nurse, getting his first job.
But when Rufus was a young man he was sent into the military as an officer.
When they were fourteen Rory put his foot down and said it was time to stop playing Raggedy Doctor, time to grow up, and Amy didn't speak to him for a month, during which time she bit her current therapist and drove her aunt nearly to distraction.
Rory hasn't ever asked but he can guess why she bit her therapist, and it's only partly to do with the therapist's insistence that the Doctor isn't real. The rest has to do with some very unorthodox physical-contact techniques he had (Amy's aunt had worn out conventional psychotherapy by then). He doesn't actually know what happened, and Amy has always said she got her teeth in before anything did happen -- and the point is, whoever he was, he wasn't good for Amy, and good on her for biting him.
The day she bit the therapist she came over to his house and cried on his bed for like an hour, and Rory sat there and didn't know what to do. If she'd asked him to play Raggedy Doctor with her he totally would have, just to make her happy, but she never asked again. So he just stroked her hair and gave her tissues and tried to be a good friend.
He's sixteen now, standing in front of a mirror in the same bedroom, studying himself carefully. He's seen enough drawings and dollies to know what the Raggedy Doctor really looks like, and what he's got going now is a sight better than the makeshift stuff from when they were kids. He has very carefully beaten the shit out of his shirt, chopped up a tie he got at Oxfam for a pound, ripped holes in his oldest trousers, and disarrayed his hair as much as one can disarray hair that's less than an inch long.
The funny thing is, they're going to a fancy-dress party and the whole town will be there and everyone will know absolutely what he is. Somehow Amy's insane delusions have infected Leadworth, and after the Biting Incident the town closed ranks around her. Several women from church went round to see her aunt and said if Amy wanted to be crazy she could jolly well be crazy and it was time to put a stop to all this therapy nonsense.
Rory wonders where the Sonic Screwdriver ever got to.
"Rory, come on, stop preening," Amy yells from the kitchen. Rory sighs. If he had known what the "friend zone" was when he was eight he would never have made friends with her. Being in love with your best friend sucks donkey bollocks.
"COMING," he yells back, clattering down the stairs. He steps into the kitchen and spreads his arms, about to ask "So what do you think?" when he sees Amy and his tongue does that thing where it tries to choke him.
It's not that Amy's in anything especially revealing. It's some kind of Roman outfit (tunica, Rufus supplies helpfully) and it preserves her modesty reasonably well. But her hair's all intricately piled up on her head and there's, uh, more leg than usual showing. Amy has a lot of leg. Legs? Anyway, she has them and they're brilliant.
Amy's staring at him with big round eyes. Rory lets his arms fall, realising what he may have just done and suddenly unconcerned with Amy's hair and legs and general gloriousness.
"You hate it," he says, stomach twisting into knots. "It's insulting. You're angry. Oh, god -- "
"No, no, I like it," she breathes, and then Amy's all way up in his personal space. She fingers a threadbare patch on his collar. "Nice attention to detail."
"Yes, well, when destroying clothing, it's important to do it properly," he manages. He steps back and offers her his arm.
When they get to the party, Amy gets catcalls; Rory gets laughter. Jeff rolls his eyes and pronounces Rory king of losers, but Jeff's costume is a lame attempt to look like a robot, so it's kind of hard to pull off being judgey.
Amy, who is in a kleptomaniac phase, gets him and Jeff drunk on a bottle of swiped whiskey after the party. Well, and herself too, fair's fair. They sit under a tree on the commons and Jeff tells them all about his big plans to ditch Leadworth and go somewhere cool like New York or maybe Berlin, and Amy curls herself up between Rory's legs, head pillowed on his chest, fingers toying with his tie. Rory tries not to let her get too close, because nothing ruins a nice evening like an intrusive erection. She smells so good.
Rory thinks that his parents think that Amy's a kind of charity case (untrue) and he thinks that her aunt is probably just so desperate for Amy to even pretend to be normal that she doesn't care if Amy spends all her time with Rory. Such a nice, stable boy. God, he's so bitter about being so stable sometimes.
But it means that when they stagger off to bed, nobody is going to care that Amy comes over to his, and nobody's going to think it weird if she's there in the morning. They've done this a million times.
He's just got them both up the stairs, giggling and shushing each other, and closed his bedroom door. He's seeing about getting out the trundle bed for Amy when she pulls him back by his shirt collar, spins him around, and shoves her tongue in his mouth.
About five minutes of oh god later, with her hands pushing his shirt up, Rory realises that he is going to have sex. With Amy. Who has had his heart wrapped around her little finger since they were nine years old.
On the one hand this could very well destroy their friendship and freak them both out and, since he definitely wasn't prepared for this, get Amy pregnant.
On the other, he is sixteen and sex is the overriding concern of most of his waking moments.
Rory's not Casanova or anything but he spent a lot of time on the internet as a teenager, and through the alcohol-hazed memories of this later, he thinks that he did all right. They didn't even get all the way out of their clothes, but Amy's costume was surprisingly easy-access and as she straddled him and sank down there was really not much for him to do but hold on and try to keep up.
He's pretty sure she didn't actually say Doctor at one point, that he mis-heard somehow. Pretty sure.
When Rufus went into the military, his father told him, "Be brave and strong, and kill a lot of barbarians." That's how he knows his father can't have been the Doctor, because the Doctor would never say that last bit. And the Doctor wouldn't care what Rory was so long as he was happy; his father, meanwhile, dreamed of Rufus Atius returning a Dux, as if he were going to cross the Rubicon like Iulius Caesar, alea iacta est, and become the next emperor of Rome.
He does love his father and wants to do him proud, and he thinks he has done so as much as he's able. Ferox is his cognomen, Warlike, and his men affectionately call him Rory Legatus. He's well liked by his legion. It is not entirely out of the question that in due time he will be Dux, leader of many legions. Not like Leadworth, where his father (shorter, quieter, greyer) always looked at his nurse's badge with a little sigh, because he wasn't the doctor they wanted him to be.
Rufus Atius' nose isn't funny-looking like Jeff used to say; it's a good Patrician nose, a sign of strong breeding. When he returns from this campaign he'll be a decorated young statesman, eminently suitable for marriage to Camilla Pontia (Amy Pond, for whom he bought a ring, who said yes even if she loved the Doctor best).
Unlike his men, he's nobly-born enough that he feels an obligation to be faithful to her, and he avoids the camp followers and the native girls. Though he doesn't figure a few desperate nights between the thighs of his prettiest centurion really counts. That's practically a Legatus' right.
A few months after the Biting Incident, Rory noticed that Jeff's mates all stopped hanging around with him.
It wasn't that they turned on him, precisely, they just ruthlessly cut him out of everything they did. Rory watched with a certain vengeful glee, at least until Jeff started hanging around him all the time. Rory and Amy were already the losers of their social set; they couldn't really afford to be seen with the Newest Loser.
Still, he tried to be tolerant and magnanimous or whatever, even though he suspected deep down that Jeff was playing some kind of long-game prank on him. And it festered, as these things will, until finally one day Jeff was -- there was no other word for it -- tagging along with him to the shops when Rory finally snapped.
"Just go away why don't you!" he shouted. "I don't know what you think you're playing at!"
"I'm not playing at anything!" Jeff shouted back. "Who are you, Mr. High And Mighty?"
"I'm not here to be the butt of your jokes," Rory snarled. "So you can fuck off."
"Make me," Jeff retorted.
Words were exchanged -- heated words -- and challenges thrown down, and all that led to what Rory's father would absently refer to later as the dust-up. Which really meant that Rory and Jeff went for each other in the middle of the High Street like rabid dogs.
As Rory expected, nobody even tried to pull them apart. He heard one woman say "I've wanted to see that boy thrash him for years," and hoped, really hoped, he was the purported thrasher and not the thrashee.
He didn't precisely thrash Jeff, who was bigger and stronger than him, but as Jeff later admitted, he got his arse handed to him and kept coming back for more. Apparently this counted for something in the social currency Jeff had been used to. On Rory's part, he had to admit Jeff wouldn't get into that kind of fight unless he really was in earnest about the whole "I'd like to be your friend but I'm too much of a moron to say it" thing.
So, nursing a black eye and a split lip and a sprained shoulder, Rory met up with Jeff the next day (Jeff did have a shiner of his own, and was walking with a limp) and they went to see Amy and have chips and Cokes at the cafe, and after that apparently they were friends. Amy accepted Jeff with a sort of wary indifference, until she ascertained that he didn't want to grab her boobs or pull her hair or be mean to Rory. Then she looped him into her insanity, in the way Amy had which brooked no opposition.
Oddly, Rory remembers what led up to the fight with Jeff much more vividly than he remembers what led up to the sex with him.
Depending on your definition, Rory lost his virginity to Amy at sixteen, while dressed as the Raggedy Doctor and very, very drunk. In reality, he couldn't deny that there was a certain loss-of-innocence component to what he got up to with Jeff the summer after he turned fifteen. He doesn't remember how they ended up kissing, though he does vividly remember his first hand-job. And very, very vividly does he remember Jeff's attempt at oral sex, because teeth got unpleasantly involved and after that they decided maybe they'd stick to hands for now. He and Jeff had a good time for the better part of a year, and he doesn't regret it. Jeff, for one, never imagined him as anything other than himself; Jeff knew about the Raggedy Doctor, but it's the one thing he'd never teased Rory about, and Rory thinks perhaps that means something.
He does feel bad about the way he treated Jeff. In hindsight it was pretty obvious that Jeff's mates dumped him when they found out he fancied boys. It should have been obvious that he had a crush on Rory, but Rory didn't really see it at the time, he just thought they were messing around, so Rory sort of...accidentally dumped him once Amy got involved in the sex. Rory's not proud of that. At the time, he didn't really know what to do, but still.
He's spent most of his life not knowing what to do. He really likes science, and science doesn't work very well on people. He has regrets. But they grew up, he and Amy and Jeff, and Jeff apparently got over it. Besides, Jeff's the Handsome One and Rory's just That Nurse, so even if they were competing for Amy (or for any given boy in the village) it's not like Rory would stand a chance.
Amy's so clever and beautiful, he can hardly believe his luck some days.
Rufus is kinder to his pet centurion than he ever was to the boy in Leadworth. Gaius adores him, but Gaius also knows what their bed-sharing is and what it isn't. Rory is waiting for Amy to arrive with her Raggedy Doctor, Doctor Pannosus (except in Latin, Doctor means Teacher, and in English, well, Rory isn't sure what it means for the Doctor). Gaius doesn't stand a chance against Camilla, his promised wife, or Amy, who he hopes still wears his ring. (Well, he hopes she wears it while sitting down or reading or something, and not while out saving the universe, because it's bound to get lost.)
But they both may die before Amy and the Doctor show up, if they're going to show up at all. Snatching a bit of pleasure hardly seems criminal, and denying Gaius this one thing would be cruel.
They are twenty years old, he and Amy and Jeff, and Jeff's been offered a job with some diplomatic office in London after the business with the Doctor turning out to be real. Apparently Jeff is something of a smooth talker, which Rory has long suspected. Jeff's leaving, and he's getting a flat in London, and Amy has seemed envious, which is why Rory is taking desperate measures.
Things changed after the Raggedy Doctor came back and then left again. The people of Leadworth seem determined to forget the giant flying eyeballs, but when Amy passes by there's no longer any hint of pity or sympathy in their faces. Amy's stories are real, and somehow that gives her power. She could make up a story about any of them, and would it come true?
So maybe now, in place of pity, there's a bit of fear. Amy doesn't seem to notice, but Amy stopped caring what people thought of her when she was a child. Rory perhaps cares a little too much still, but when it comes to Amy he has no pride.
"Will you marry me," he says to the mirror, studying his face to make sure he doesn't look stupid. "I want you to marry me. I want to be your husband. Oh bollocks."
"Don't say you want to be her husband, that sounds moronic," Jeff advises.
"This is all your fault," Rory announces.
"My fault!" Jeff looks outraged.
"Yes, your stupid bloody fault. You had to be all, ooh, I'm going to London, ooh, I'm going to have a flat, why don't you come visit me," Rory waved his hands around, aware that now he definitely looked stupid. "What if Amy wants to move to London? Now she's got a...a beach-head!"
"Okay, what did you just call me?" Jeff asks, standing up. It's been six years since Jeff stopped being Rory's most hated enemy and five years since Jeff was maybe kind of his boyfriend for a bit and they've been best mates for ages, so Rory's not exactly afraid Jeff's going to punch him. He rolls his eyes.
"A beach-head, you know, a foot in the door. If she wanted to up sticks and run off to London she's got a mate there to show her around and let her sleep on his couch and I bet Kissograms make way better money in London than they do in Leadworth."
Rory tries really hard not to be angry about Amy's Kissogramming. It's her life, she can do what she wants, and he's being an insecure twit, but it hurts to think about her kissing someone else.
"Nurses do too," Jeff points out, turning him back to face the mirror. He rests his hands on Rory's shoulders, thumbs rubbing soothingly against his neck, smiling at Rory in their reflection. "You and Amy could both come with me. Promise to be the perfect gentleman."
Rory thinks men probably don't do this, straight men anyway, men who are going to ask women to marry them in a few hours. He doesn't care; he leans back against Jeff a little, taking comfort from touch that has long since become platonic, if perhaps a bit more intimate than most friends share. Jeff squeezes his shoulders, taking his weight without even seeming to notice.
"She loves you," Jeff tells him. "I love you. Not like that," he adds, when Rory tenses. "Wow, get over yourself. I'm trying to be the supportive friend here."
"You suck at it," Rory tells him. It's Jeff's turn to roll his eyes. "Don't you even make a joke about sucking."
"Fine, whatever." Jeff gives him a slight shove and lets him go. "She'll say yes."
"What if the Doctor comes back?" Rory asks, which is really his greatest fear.
"Then I have dibs," Jeff announces.
It's nothing fancy, really; Rory wears his nicest shirt but they just go out for pizza at the Italian place and then for a walk near the oak where they used to hide their playbox. He doesn't even get down on one knee, because Amy doesn't like that kind of fairy story. He just stands there under the oak and holds her hands in both of his and says, "I love you, and I want you to marry me. So. Do you think you want to? Marry me?"
Amy seems to be deciding something -- actually she seems to be listening for something, as if she can still hear their shrieks of terror and laughter when they were kids playing Raggedy Doctor.
Then she says yes, and that's all that matters.
Rory would do anything for Amy. He can fix up her aunt's old house for her, or maybe if she wants a different house they can buy one together. He'll buy her the prettiest wedding dress, whatever she wants. If she wants children they'll have loads or if she wants like, maybe some dogs instead, he likes dogs, or even cats, though he's not that fond of cats. If she wants to go to London he'll totally go to London with her. As long as he gets to be with her he'd go to the moon.
(Or, as it turns out, to Venice during the Renaissance. Funny how these things happen.)
Rory has his own thoughts and dreams, and he knows Amy does too; he loves her, and he thinks she loves him, but neither is the other's whole world. Amy's imagination is too big for one person, and Rory has too much love for only her.
Still, he would happily die for Amy, if he had to. He always thought, if her Doctor made her happy he'd die for him, too. But he never imagined he would die for the Doctor because the Doctor is worth dying for. Rory loves the Doctor too.
Which really is the whole used-to-hate-Jeff-but-now-there's-handjobs thing all over again, except without the handjobs. So far, anyway.
Rufus learned his historical poets as a child. He likes most of Horace; Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori has meaning for his soldiers too, but only as a dusty bit of poetry from a hundred years ago.
Horace meant it sincerely. Rory, even as a soldier Ferox, finds it mocking. To him it is the sharp-tongued conclusion of a poem about the brutality of soldiering that he had to memorise when he was twelve -- My friend, you would not tell with such high zest / To children ardent for some desperate glory / the old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est...
It is sweet and dignified to die for the patria, the land of one's fathers. If Rufus dies he will receive an honourable funeral, with an actor in a wax mask of his face riding a litter through the streets of Rome, to ensure his immortality and to glorify his deeds. But all the same he'd rather not die, not yet, thank you.
His life is a mystery. He remembers Leadworth, even as he gives orders to his men in drawling Latin he never learned at Leadworth schools. Plumbpretium, it would be in Latin. He asked one of the cartographers in the legion about Plumbpretium, if there was ever a town called that, and was told they'd never mapped such a place. He remembers Latin from the other life: Elizabeth II Regina, semper ubi sub ubi, nil illegitamo carborundum, none of them with any meaning in this time, in this place, since translingual puns don't work when English hasn't been invented yet. Fabricati Diem Pvnk is downright absurd. (He misses Terry Pratchett novels. Amy had her escapes, he had his own.)
Each morning, Rory puts on his tunica, his baltus, his lorica musculata and paludamentum, his braccae if it's cold, and he thinks about his light, loose scrubs and his sensible trainers and his boxer-briefs. Oh, how he misses boxer-briefs. Semper ubi sub ubi indeed.
Some mornings, Rory the Ferox leads a few hundred men into battle, if he must. He often comes quite close to dying. Some other mornings, better mornings, he takes a few contuberniae and goes to trade and make treaties. Ferox he may be, but he is not Atrox, and he does prefer peace to war.
Most mornings he wonders if today will be the day he wakes up in the TARDIS again, but he never does.
Look, even Rory knows that Cleopatra is dead by 102 AD, and it's not like history was his strongest subject. If he hadn't been out on maneuvers with his men when she showed up, he would have marched in and drummed her out of camp.
But by the time he gets back, his Dux has returned and already knows Cleopatra is dead; at least someone's not a moron around this place. More intriguing, there are rumours that "Cleopatra" took three horses and rode out to that creepy temple on the plain (Stonehenge, he read a comic book once about Stonehenge in that other life). And with her went a skinny dark-haired man they say is Caesar -- liars, the Doctor is greater than the greatest Caesar who ever marched for Rome -- and a red-headed woman, "probably his concubine or something."
The first man to call her a concubine in his hearing gets knocked on his arse by Rory Legatus, the Ferox, and nobody's quite sure why. It's not like the Ferox has ever been particularly patriotic about their Emperor.
He volunteers to go with the woman who called herself Cleopatra. The rest of the camp thinks she's a witch, but the force of respect for their legatus is strong enough for eight contuberniae to decide they're going with him. Forty-eight men, plus Rory and his centurion Gaius, march in good formation across Salisbury Plain to the temple. And then underneath it.
Rory's pretty impressed with himself, the way he killed that robot thing.
His heart leapt when he saw Amy, his Amy, his Camillula, and to his surprise it leapt again when the Doctor appeared. For a horrible second the Doctor didn't seem to know him, but then he called him Rory and Rory realised the Doctor was just having a very stupid moment. He has those sometimes. It's endearing.
As the Doctor rants and wanders around, Rory wishes he'd polished his lorica and maybe washed his paludamentum. Fortunately for him, at least, Amy really likes Romans. Really, really likes them. Almost as much as she likes the Raggedy Doctor.
Rory wonders if there will be an appropriate time to ask the Doctor if maybe his boxer-briefs are still in the TARDIS. Seriously, fuck The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, towels are no substitute for comfortable underwear.
Rufus Atius Ferox, Rory Legatus, is quite a mouthful of a name. And it's not...well, it's not real. He has no father and mother waiting for him in Rome, no Camilla, no lovely courtyard with its mural of feasters lit by blue lanterns. When he returns to Rome as part of the guard on the Pandorica, none of his life has been real. He is a plastic man, a dolly like the dollies Amy used to make of the Doctor. But he remembers Rufus, and he feels like Rory. He punched the Doctor to prove he was Rory, once, just like he went after Jeff to prove his manhood at the tender age of fourteen.
His immortality is a whispered legend among the keepers of the Pandorica, though he is irrationally angry when the barbarians who eventually capture it demote him in their stories to a mere Centurion.
Various kings and guards and soldiers, a few archaeologists and some scientists, have all tried to take the box from him or take him from the box. They didn't have much success. His name was Rufus Atius Ferox, after all. He fought well, and frankly despite the Doctor's warnings it turned out Nestenes were pretty durable. He has a few holes here and there and one of his toes fell off at one point, but if that's all he has to complain about he's doing all right. He thinks he's still sane.
The thing is, it's all down to maths, and Rory's rather good at maths. Time doesn't actually speed up when you get older, but it does seem to. Because, right, when you're five, a year is a fifth of your whole life and that's forever. But when you're twenty-five, a year is only one twenty-fifth, and that's not very long at all.
The first ten years were pretty boring, but he got through them okay. The next twenty were like the last hour of a really really long car drive, when it's late and you're all cramped and hot and cranky. He did cut off someone's arm when they tried to touch the Pandorica at some point in those twenty years. He's not actually proud of that.
The next thirty went pretty quickly, though, and the sixty after that he doesn't even remember except as a big blur. The next real memory he has is when the Franks took the Pandorica, and they left him alone mostly.
The Knights Templar were quite nice, too, but then they gave him and the Pandorica to the Vatican. All that chanting, it really does grate on a man after a while. Plus they wanted to burn him at the stake and he had to do some very fast talking to convince them he was an angel of the Lord and they should fear for their puny mortal lives. After that, time passed pretty quickly and he has no real complaints.
He did stay in uniform as long as it was practical to do so, but eventually people looked at him and saw the Centurion (Legatus! SERIOUSLY, HOW HARD CAN IT BE?) whether he was in the lorica or not, so he got into something a little more contemporary. Plus, by 1200 or so, it was hard to find a good durable lorica.
In 1939, this soldier came to visit him. For the first time in almost two thousand years, instead of shouting or gesturing or threatening, he sat down and lit a cigarette and said, "So, mate, what's your story then?"
Rory looked up at him. He generally stuck to a policy of only speaking Latin, because it seemed to confuse them into leaving him alone.
"Lingua mea dices?"
The man grinned. "Ne dico. English dices?"
"I thought you said you didn't speak Latin," Rory replied, startled into English.
"Ne dico, quod discipulus celeris sum," the soldier said smugly.
Rory laughed for the first time in ages. "That's not right, you know."
"Yeah, I know. I didn't say I was a good student," the soldier said. "So you do speak English. Well, that wins me two bob."
"Glad I could help," Rory told him, expecting him to bugger off back to the guardhouse outside the archive where the Pandorica was kept. Instead, the man took another drag of his smoke.
"Must get kind of boring," he said.
"Has its moments," Rory replied.
"Do a lot of thinking?"
Rory snorted. "Yeah. A lot."
"You want a book or something? I could take over for a minute while you visit the loo -- "
Rory didn't have his sword anymore but he had picked up a revolver the last time the Pandorica changed hands, mostly for show, and now he cocked it. The soldier held up his arms, placatingly.
"It's all right, mate, I'm not interested in your box," he said. Rory relaxed slightly. "Just thought, you know, you might want to have a stretch or something."
Rory leaned forward and put his chin in his hands, resting his elbows on his knees. "Have they invented boxer-briefs yet?" he asked plaintively.
The soldier frowned. "What're those when they're at home?"
Rory had to do him a description, eventually, but the next day a cheap pasteboard box with two pairs of boxer-briefs was delivered, "Compliments of His Majesty's Government".
They were a bit scratchy and not very stretchy, but Rory put them on and then did up his trousers and walked around for like half an hour, enjoying the sensation. Oh lovely. They were clearly in the home stretch now, and the only direction to go from here was up.
Rory Williams remembers so many lives.
Never when he's awake. When he's awake he's just Rory. But sometimes he dreams about a courtyard in Rome, or a battlefield in some misty, freezing place, or years upon years upon years of patience. He dreams about a blue box with a man in it and he can't decide whether he loves or hates him. He dreams about being places with Amy that they've never been, that they never could go. He dreams about Jeff leaving Leadworth, though Jeff's going to be the best man at his wedding.
He blames Amy. Well, not blames her. It's not her fault. But he credits his vivid dreamscapes to her waking imagination. Clearly, being bonkers is contagious.
So when it all comes rushing back -- when the blue box actually shows up at their wedding and there's this bloke inside it in a white tie and tails and it's the Doctor -- Rory hears himself say "I was plastic! He was the stripper at my stag do!" and then he jumps over the table after Amy.
The Doctor is glorious. He's alive, and he's making fun of Amy, and then he calls Rory "Mr. Pond". Even as Rory's protesting that, his insides twist with pleasure -- partly at being marked as Amy's, forever, and partly because the Doctor's hand is warm on his arm, through his suit.
"There's only one thing for it," Amy says that night, as they're dancing the last dance and both heavily aware that the Doctor is slipping away.
Rory nods against her forehead. "We have to go with him."
"Yep," she says.
"What do we need? Should we pack?" he asks.
"Got your ring on, Mr. Pond?" Amy replies. Rory holds up his left hand so she can see it.
"Come on then," she tells him, and they kiss and slip away into the night, half a minute behind the Doctor.
He was worried they'd have to convince the Doctor to take them along, but it turns out the Doctor's been plotting to convince them, so they don't even have to try. And, well, the TARDIS wasn't really where Rory expected to spend his wedding night, but he didn't remember the TARDIS that morning, and he and Amy have been shagging since they were sixteen, so it doesn't really matter.
Under the amber lamps of the control room, Amy and the Doctor both glow like there's some kind of holy light coming off them.
The Doctor looks at him, and looks at Amy, and says, "This might take a while, you know. You two should get some...rest."
Rory grins at him. Amy squeals and throws her arms around Rory's neck.
"Wedding night!" she announces.
"That was the general idea," Rory drawls, but the effect is ruined when he almost stumbles as she pulls him towards the stairs. They run together down the hall and around a corner, to where their room is waiting for them. The TARDIS purrs beneath their feet.
Domina echoes in his mind from Rory's days as Rufus. Mistress of the household. Queen of him and of the TARDIS and of the Doctor.
They do rest for a while after sex (the best kind of happy, love-you, let's-get-messy sex), deliberately not caring whether the TARDIS has landed or not. Rory drowses in the perpetual twilight of the blue room they share and the softness of their bed. After a while, Amy turns in his arms and touches his chest, over his heart.
"I love you," she says. Rory can barely breathe.
"I love you too," he answers.
"I fancy you rotten."
"Well, I figured that was part of the 'love me' deal," he informs her. She swats him gently.
"Can I ask though," she bites her lip and then continues, "What do you think of him?"
"Well, that was an odd and unsettling segue," he says, pushing himself up on one elbow to look down at her. "Are you asking in general, or in the fancy-him-rotten sense?"
"Fancy him?" Rory strokes her hair with the tip of a finger. "You knew about Jeff and me, didn't you."
"Yep," she replies, smiling.
"And you never said anything."
"Well, you married me. So? Do you?"
Rory kisses her forehead. "It's complicated. When I was a Roman, they made the Doctor my dad, sort of. And you made me dress up as him when we were kids and vigorously deflowered me while I was dressed like him, so that's a bit weird."
"Deflowered you?" she laughs.
"And my wife fancies him, which makes it a very tricky situation, you know," he adds. Amy sobers.
"But do you?" she repeats. Her fingers brush his wedding ring.
"Yeah," he admits, because whatever, who cares? They're in the TARDIS, travelling to some train in space, placing their trust and their lives in the hands of an alien who's older than sand and has this weird fixation on bow ties and fezes (fezi? Fesz?). Amy obviously already knew Rory sometimes likes boys, so his sexuality is the very least of his concerns right now.
"I'm glad," Amy says, and there's a fierce light in her eyes.
"What do we do?" Rory asks. "He doesn't seem the type to, you know. Can he even? I mean...I don't know..."
"He told me once he liked you. A lot," she says.
"So? He likes custard a lot."
Amy laughs. "You weren't there. He did the most adorable little head-duck thing. And he blushed."
"He never did. He doesn't blush!" Rory exclaims. "Does he?"
"He did then."
Rory flops down again, pulling Amy close against him. "So you fancy him, and I fancy him, and he maybe fancies me, and definitely fancies you."
"Could make life very interesting," Amy suggests.
"I'm not sure how much interesting my life can take," Rory sighs. "I suppose the worst he can do is leave us on a space train in the future with no money."
"That's my optimist." Amy kisses his bare shoulder.
But the thing is, they kind of leave it there, this half-possibility hanging in the space between them. Neither of them wants to talk about how such a thing might be accomplished, or risk that the Doctor might find them two silly unevolved apes and put them off the TARDIS completely. Rory can't very well ask Amy to handle it, and Amy can't very well tell Rory to handle it, so what he's left with are vague ideas and vaguer curiosities: what would it feel like? What would the Doctor do? How does he look, freshly kissed? How would it be, really, to see his wife with another man? How would it feel to be with another man while Amy is there?
And for all his time with Jeff, it's not like they got very far really, and his memories of Gaius are cloudy at best, so what exactly would the Doctor want with him? If anything?
Besides, maybe the Doctor doesn't even have any, you know, bits. Or he's got bits in weird places. Or bits with teeth. What a thought.
They nap quietly, now that it's out in the open, and Rory wakes with sleep-dry mouth to find the Doctor standing in the doorway, knuckles pressed against the frame. He knocks once. Rory can't see his face, but he can tell he's smiling.
"Almost there," he says quietly. Rory pushes himself up to sitting; Amy complains in her sleep, mildly, but doesn't wake. "Good, eh?"
Rory frowns. "Mh?"
"Good? It's good, you and Amy?" the Doctor says, but he doesn't wait for a reply. "Never had a married couple travelling here before. Well. Some of them might as well have been. There was this bloke Ian, he had chemistry with everything -- robots, doorknobs, inert gases. Took someone like Barbara to really put his brakes on...eh. Old memories," he adds, drifting in some past time. "Funny how I never used to pay attention to that sort of thing."
Rory has no clue what to say. This is easier when there's crying involved, then his job is to stroke hair and fetch tissues. Or, or! When there's a big box to be guarded. Rory is fucking aces at guarding big boxes.
"Well, anyway, up and dressed, time's wasting," the Doctor says, and disappears before Rory can get another word out.
And then, see, there's this space train, and an alien queen and an Egyptian goddess and lots of running. So, until everything goes boom, Rory puts it out of his mind.
The boom was pretty spectacular.
When all's said and done and blown up, Amy has this thing, she gets really -- well, she really likes having adventures and she likes kissing people after having adventures. As he's there, and married to her, they recover from the explosion and kiss a lot and go back to bed.
While she sleeps, Rory lies in bed in the TARDIS with her and thinks really hard about everything that's happened. Not so much with the train, but everything that happened when the stars went out.
The way he reckons it, it's partways about the stars. There's no way that world would have turned out like what he thinks of as the "real" world if there were no stars. Terry Pratchett (good old Pterry is invaluable in the TARDIS, if only for keeping one's sense of humour) says that when things are supposed to happen they happen -- if you kill someone who was supposed to do something, someone else will do it, just to make sure time more or less stays on track. Still, this stretches credulity. And Rory was there.
So Rory formulates a theory, which he calls in his head the "It's All Rubbish" theory, that a lot of things that "happened" didn't actually happen. Like the two thousand years he waited for Amy, though they seemed real enough at the time, per Iovem!
There is the right world, even if it's wrong, where they grew up playing Raggedy Doctor and he died and came back as a Roman. Then there's the world without stars and the world without the Doctor, and Rory decides that both of those really only existed because of Amy.
Rory climbs out of bed, slipping away from Amy, and walks to the console room in his pyjamas. He has to know if his understanding is even close to being right. He thinks it means that everything they know about the universe is wrong: that science is good, but science isn't enough. What if reality, physics, biology, chemistry, all of it depends on stories, too? That's actual magic. Not sufficiently-advanced-technology, not different-kind-of-maths, but something bigger and warmer and -- very much like Amy herself, somehow.
"Doctor?" he calls. The Doctor looks up from contemplating a row of green switches on the console.
"Hallo," the Doctor says, smiling at him. "Where's Pond?"
"Oh -- still sleeping." Rory jerks a thumb over his shoulder as he descends the stairs. The Doctor returns to his staring, so Rory stares for a while too.
"What do they do?" he finally asks.
"Nothing. They're just there to be pretty," the Doctor says. He looks perplexed by this. "The TARDIS is getting vain in her old age."
Rory pats the edge of the console, wondering how aware the TARDIS really is. The Doctor talks about it -- or her -- like she's a person.
"I need to ask you something," Rory says, gathering up his courage, because asking the Doctor about physics is like asking to be hit in the face with...with a very science-y lemon meringue pie. The Doctor turns to him, ready to listen and answer, and Rory tries to inhale and explain what he means but in the face of the Doctor's patient curiosity he's suddenly tongue-tied.
"Yes." The Doctor smiles, as if he already knows. "You start out a little slow but once you get there you get there all at once, don't you?"
Rory bridles. "I'm not slow!"
"That wasn't an insult." The Doctor startles him, lays a hand on his face and rubs his thumb along Rory's cheekbone. "Breathe," he laughs. "I'm not going to hurt you."
Rory clenches his fists, gets control of himself, and waits for whatever the Doctor's doing to be done.
"Oh, clever, gorgeous Rory," the Doctor murmurs. "Even I don't understand what happened, not all the way. Why do you think you have to?"
Rory watches him, wary. The Doctor's lips curve.
"Because you like science," he says. "And fitting pieces of the puzzle together. And you love Amy, and why shouldn't the universe revolve around her?"
"Does it?" Rory asks. The Doctor lets his hand drop.
"I don't know," he says thoughtfully. "It's a big cosmos. Anything is possible."
"That's what I want to know," Rory says, twiddling the hem of his pyjama shirt nervously. The Doctor touches his fingers, stilling him.
"Listen," he says, "because this is not something I'll say often. When I say that I know something, it usually means I believe something and think I'm right. I don't actually know everything. I just make smart guesses. I can't answer you, Rory, I'm telling you I don't know how a world without stars still produces Amy Pond. I don't know how any of that worked except that I had a feeling it would. I hoped it would." He looks down at the console, still facing Rory, a hand still touching his knuckles. "Disappointing, isn't it?"
When he was ten years old he dressed up in a raggedy old shirt and trousers and pretended to be the Doctor, with a penlight decorated with glitter as his only defence against the mad, dangerous world outside. It turns out that's not really so different from the actual thing, the definitive article. The Doctor might know more than they do, might be cleverer than they are, but he's not as omniscient as he seems to be.
Rory twists his hand around suddenly to grip the Doctor's wrist, tugs him close and kisses him. Not because Amy loves him and he wants Amy to have everything she desires, but because Rory loves him too, and Rory wants the Doctor to have everything he desires.
The Doctor jerks backwards and Rory follows, still kissing him, until they collide sideways into a part of the railing. The Doctor vaults over it, escaping.
"You!" he shouts, pointing up at Rory from below, looking baffled and frustrated. "You humans! Why do you have to go round kissing people all the time, it's really very upsetting!"
"What kind of racket do you call this?" Amy yells from the hallway. A second later she appears in the door, blanket wrapped around her shoulders, hair mussed. "Boys, are you fighting?"
"This isn't what it looks like," the Doctor blurts. Amy stares down at him, and then she sighs.
"Are we in a reality that doesn't exist again?" she asks.
Rory can't help but grin. That's his wife, that is.
"Your -- infernal -- " the Doctor gestures at his nose, which is a kind of sign language for Rory that he uses mainly when he's annoyed. "He kissed me! Why do people keep kissing me?"
"Rory!" Amy looks scandalised. Rory ducks his head. "You could have waited for me."
"Sorry, sorry," he mutters, in a very convincing display of contrition. When he glances up, the Doctor is looking, if possible, even more confused than before.
"You're married," he points out. "Honestly, the twenty-first century, I don't know why I bother. If I wanted to be snogged all the time I'd find someone from the fifty-first, if I wanted to be left alone there are loads of Victorians who wouldn't go near me, but it's this muddling up in the middle, you never know what you're going to get, first Pond and now -- " he makes the nose gesture again. Rory ignores it, because while the Doctor's been ranting in his absolute best cranky-old-man style, Amy's been quietly descending the stairs from one direction and Rory, catching her eye, has circled round from the other. "My god, I mean really, as if the libidos weren't enough, you're all sexually confused and half the time nobody even knows who they want to shag. And you know who ends up getting caught in the middle so that it's somehow his fault? That's right, me, I get -- "
Rory catches the Doctor's shoulders from behind as Amy pushes him backwards. Amy's kissing him, hair falling over her shoulders, one hand holding his left wrist and the other keeping his face still. Rory's not really sure how much they can push before the Doctor's head explodes or something, but he presses his face to the Doctor's soft hair and kisses the nape of his neck. The Doctor goes pliant against Rory, as if he's giving in to something he doesn't understand.
"But you're married," the Doctor insists, when Amy lets him go.
"So?" Amy says. Rory wants to object to this, but he's busy essentially holding the Doctor up, and Amy's much better at this kind of talk anyway.
"That's the whole point of being married!" the Doctor roars, as if he's really stuck on the concept. "You know, two of you. Promising forever and everything!"
"Rubbish," Rory declares. Amy beams at him.
"I thought," she says, very carefully, like talking to a stray animal, "it was about saying you loved someone. And the tax break."
"Tax breaks are important," Rory agrees.
"You're married, that means something, this is not okay," the Doctor continues, but he hasn't even tried to get away from Rory's arms around his waist or Amy's hands on his shoulders.
"It means we choose," Amy says. "Together. Right, Rory?"
"Hmmm," Rory agrees, against the Doctor's neck.
"That is very distracting," the Doctor announces, trying to twist around. Rory sometimes wonders if he's part cat. Alien cat. Whatever, he bends in ways people don't normally bend. Which, in its own way, is very promising.
"Doctor," Amy says, soft and inexorable. Rory remembers when she finally accepted that Jeff was a fixture in their lives, and promptly took him in wholesale; she's going to pull the Doctor in like she pulled Jeff in, only this time the Raggedy Doctor game is real. "What do you want?"
"I want human beings to make sense," the Doctor says forlornly.
"Sorry, mate," Rory tells him. "Clearly we're under-evolved."
"That's not fair, I never said -- " the Doctor breaks off when Amy touches his cheek. His breath is coming short and fast.
"What do you want?" Amy asks again.
There's a perilous moment where everything seems to revolve on a sharp point, dizzying, expectant, and then the Doctor kisses Amy, kisses Rory's wife, and Rory pulls him back so he can kiss him too. Amy punches him in the arm and leaps on both of them so fast that Rory almost falls over.
When they tumble into bed, finally, they laugh and wrestle and there are a few minutes spent in sorting out some awkward elbows (is he made of elbows? He seems to have more than the usual suddenly). There's kisses for the Doctor and Amy's long legs twining with his and Rory gets to touch everywhere. It's good, it's so good to have Amy and the Doctor and to be Rory, to be alive.
Turns out the Doctor's bits are completely ordinary and there are no teeth or anything. They're actually very nice. Amy totally agrees with him.
Afterward, with Amy resting her head on the Doctor's shoulder and Rory half-sprawled over his chest, within easy kissing distance of his wife, the Doctor speaks first.
"It's always a bit of a gamble," he says, in the soft, contemplative voice he doesn't use very often. "Sometimes I just was far too busy to bother. Or I wasn't interested, or wouldn't be welcome if I was. It's been a long time," he adds, which makes Amy snort a giggle against his skin. Rory winks at her.
"Are you happy?" Amy asks him. The Doctor nods. "Rory?"
"Oh blissful," Rory says, and the Doctor laughs.
"Can I ask why?" the Doctor inquires, shifting to sink a little deeper into the bed, as if he's staying a while. "I just don't...why?"
"Well," Amy says, "Rory isn't happy unless he's got people to love. If he didn't have us he'd be a crazy old cat man."
"I don't like cats," Rory retorts. The Doctor raises a hand to Rory's hair, stroking it against the grain. Rory reaches up and corrects him, and gets a swipe across his head, affectionate.
"And you?" the Doctor continues, turning to look at Amy. Rory is still a little afraid of his deep, searching eyes, but Amy isn't. "What makes you happy?"
Amy smiles a secretive smile. "Adventures. New stories. My boys," she adds fondly.
She reaches across the Doctor to rest a hand on Rory's arm, and the Doctor rubs his fingers against Rory's scalp. His chest could burst with pride and love. All the lifetimes he's lived, they were always knitted inextricably with Amy and the Doctor. Now he has them, and they want him. Want him.
"Where shall we go next?" the Doctor asks, but he's not really looking for an answer. "The Dlaad Reef? The 33rd century? You want to meet Beowulf? I'm warning you now he was a complete tosser."
Rory buries his head in the Doctor's chest, grinning, while the Doctor and Amy bicker about where they want to go.
"Sunt omnes unum," he mumbles, feeling as if the last bit of the puzzle is in place. It doesn't matter to him, so long as he gets to go with them.